Born on this day: Harold Johnson
Very few fighters are remembered more by their style and their devastating power than for their long lists of title defenses. Our subject of today’s BOTD article is one of them.
Harold Johnson was born in Manayunk, Pennsylvania in 1928. He turned pro in 1946 after a stint in the US Navy and proceeded to win his first 24 bouts before running into fellow all-time great Archie Moore. He would face Moore three more times, in a rivalry that defined his career and his place in history.
As he rose through the ranks fighting the best of the best, Johnson became part of boxing lore when he lost to future heavyweight champion Jersey Joe Walcott in 1950, thus becoming part of the first father/son duo to lose to the same fighter (his father Phil Johnson had lost to Walcott in 1935 by the same result: a third-round stoppage).
Johnson kept taking on all comers until he was pitted against Moore once again but this time with the light-heavyweight belt at play, losing by TKO in 14 rounds. Undeterred, Johnson trudged on until he was finally crowned as NBA champion in 1961 with a win over Jesse Bowdry, obtaining the full consideration as Ring world champion two fights later when he defeated Doug Jones in 15 rounds, in 1962.
His reign would be short-lived, as he lost his belt to Willie Pastrano in 1963, fighting on and off until his retirement in 1971 with a record of 76 wins, 11 losses and 31 knockouts.
Jimmy Bivins, Bob Satterfield, Ezzard Charles, Eddie Machen, Nino Valdez and many others of the best of his era are counted among his victims. He was inducted in the International Boxing Hall of Fame in 1993. The man that The Ring magazine listed as one of the ten best light heavyweights of all time finally heard the final count at the age of 86, in 2015.